When the Wood River Valley transitions into a winter playground, as it does every year—gaining a fresh blanket of snow over foothills, creeks and mountains—recreational opportunities abound.
But picking out the right activities for the family doesn’t have to be stressful. Here’s a look at kid-friendly local winter offerings, updated to reflect current pricing and dates.
Alpine skiing and snowboarding
Both Bald and Dollar mountains offer consistent pitch and a variety of terrain to help young skiers and boarders build confidence and hone technique. Sun Valley Resort lift tickets are generally the cheapest in the earlier and later parts of the season, from opening day (Thanksgiving) through mid-December and during April.
On Dollar Mountain, unlimited skiing/boarding for kids under 12 for the season is $359, with those under 5 skiing and riding for free. All new passholders will need to go to the River Run pass office to have their pictures taken and sign a liability agreement.
Sun Valley Resort offers group classes and private lessons through its popular SnowSports School. Novice to intermediate skiers can register for the Kinder Cubs (2-4 years), Dollar Cubs (3-4), Dollar Bears (5-6), Dollar Adventure (7-12) or Dollar Challenge (13-17) day-camp programs. For snowboard lessons, children must be at least 7 years old. Intermediate to advanced skiers and boarders under 12 can sign up for the Baldy Adventure camp, and teens can enroll in the Baldy Challenge camp.
Day-camp programs on Dollar and Baldy generally run in one- to four-day segments from Thanksgiving through April, 9:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Costs range from $250 to $1,500.)
Starting Jan. 10, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is offering its LASAR (Learn To Alpine Ski and Race) program for children in kindergarten through fifth grade at a cost of $250. The LASAR classes take place Wednesday and Friday afternoons at Rotarun, west of Hailey, from 3:30-5:30 p.m., and run through February.
SVSEF’s Rota-Rippers ski and snowboard program is currently full, but its cross-country Striders program for kids ages 6-11—meeting Monday and Wednesday afternoons at Quigley Canyon near Hailey—still has openings.
Of course, a roundup of snow-sport activities for kids would not be complete without mention of the Papoose Club’s annual Kindercup alpine race on Dollar Mountain. Since 1957, the event—set for Sunday, March 15, this year—has celebrated young skiers and boarders across the valley. The race is open to non-sanctioned skiers and boarders ages 3-12, and all competitors will earn a commemorative pin.
For less competitive, traditional fun, sledding on Penny Hill at the corner of Saddle and Sun Valley roads in Sun Valley has always been a favorite, and kids can also hit the hills around Galena Lodge for free.
Ice skating and hockey
For some indoor fun on the ice, open skate at Hailey’s Campion Ice House runs from 1:30-4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays, and usually takes place on weekend afternoons. Kids admission is $5 per session and skate rental is $5.
For those who prefer to skate while getting some fresh air, the Sun Valley Outdoor Ice Rink, at Sun Valley Resort, has open skating from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. ($10 for kids 6-12, free for 5 and under; skates are $6 to rent.)
The outdoor rink will be closed to the public on Wednesdays from 4-5 p.m. for the Sun Valley Figure Skating Club’s Skate With Us classes. This basic-skills program is open to all ages and will run from Jan. 22 to April 8; the $125 price includes 25-minute lessons and skate rental.
For those looking to save money, skating at Ketchum’s two-acre Christina Potter Ice Rink is free, and kids can check out hockey sticks and skates. The Potter rink will also host this year’s annual Pond Hockey Classic on Jan. 18-19. (Registration via the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department opens Dec. 2.)
Other holiday classics
On Wednesday, Dec. 4, Santa Claus will arrive by fire truck at the Ketchum Town Square shortly after the 4:30 p.m. holiday lighting ceremony. (His mailbox will be set up in the Town Square until Christmas Eve.) Holiday staples like candy canes and hot cocoa will abound, and the Caritas Chorale singing ensemble will provide Christmas carols well into the evening. Similar provisions and entertainment will be offered Dec. 6 at the Hailey Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Santa will also make his way to Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland Festival, which kicks off Dec. 7 at Sun Valley Village, and will stop by the village’s 5:30 p.m. tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 14.
Other Winter Wonderland highlights at Sun Valley are:
Dec. 7: Kids’ train rides, gingerbread decorating and face painting are just some of the afternoon offerings at Sun Valley Village.
Dec. 14-15: An open-air market at the Sun Valley Inn will feature traditional wreaths, crafts and gourmet holiday treats.
Dec. 7-31: The Sparkle Scavenger Hunt will challenge kids to track Sunny the Bear in participating stores. Once completed, prizes can be claimed at the Sun Valley Guest Center.
Dec. 21 to Jan. 4: Horse-drawn sleigh rides will depart on the half-hour from the Sun Valley Nordic Center.
Dec. 31: A family night-skiing party—including music and fireworks—will be held on Dollar Mountain from 5-9 p.m. (Kids $30, adults $50.)